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  • Study Shows Lung Cancer CT Screening Is Cost-Effective
Sep 2003
NEW YORK, Sept. 4 -- Low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening for lung cancer may not only improve a lung cancer patient's chances for a cure, but is also likely to be cost-effective when compared with other widely accepted cancer screening methods, according to researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College. An analysis of their work, published in the August issue of Chest, demonstrates that annual low-dose CT screening for lung cancer compares favorably to cost-effectiveness ratios of other screenings.

The study -- a collaboration between NewYork Weill Cornell Medical Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University Graduate School of Business -- finds that the yearly cost of saving one life using a single low-dose CT scan could be as low as $2500. The analysis is based on data from the Early Lung Cancer Action Project (ELCAP) study, which analyzed the response of low-dose CT screening for 1000 high-risk individuals.

CT screening for lung cancer may be significantly more cost effective than an annual PAP smear for cervical cancer screening, which costs approximately $50,000 per life-year saved, or annual mammography, which costs about $24,000 per life-year saved -- two well-accepted early detection strategies to decrease cancer mortality, the researchers said.

"With CT screening, more than 80 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed in the earliest, most curable stage. Without CT screening, less than 15 percent of cancers are in this early stage," said Claudia Henschke, the study's principal investigator, a professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and chief of the Chest Imaging Division at NewYork Weill Cornell Medical Center. "Lung cancer screening is cost-effective because the CT and further work-up cost is low, the frequency of finding early stage curable cancer by screening is high and the cost of surgery is less than half of the cost of late-stage treatment. There is no medical or economic reason for high-risk individuals not to be screened."

As the screening becomes more widely available, the price -- and consequently, the cost-effectiveness ratio -- should continue to decrease, the researchers said. The study also found that the cost effectiveness of CT screening is improved by the identification of high-risk individuals (those with a history of smoking or asbestos exposure or emphysema).

The original ELCAP study, which was led by Henschke and published in the July 1999 Lancet, determined that low-dose CT scans found that more than 80 percent of the screening-detected cancers were Stage 1, the most curable stage of the cancer.

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